Eating in Non-Kosher Restaurants Florence, Italy, 1571-1622

In preparing for a class on the Jews in Italy, I found these texts published by Stefanie Siegmund, newly discovered and translated from the Florentine Jewish Community archives. In the first one, we have a regulation not to eat out on Shabbat and not to order gentile wine from outside the Ghetto for Shabbat use. The second text from several decades later bans eating in non-kosher restaurants no matter what they serve or whether tavern, pub, snack bar, restaurant, specialty shops, or breakfast room. One can only eat ices without company in these establishments.

In principle  this is not new. Cecil Roth, Roberto Bonfil, David Ruderman and Ariel Toaff are filled with medieval Italian Jews who gamble on Shabbat, drink gentile wine without qualm, frequent brothels, attend Carnival in mask, engage in mixed dancing- even teaching dance in the day schools, and engage in duels. But the seeming need to tell them not to eat at treif restaurants is new.

Professor Siegmund writes:

The demographic growth of cities, the presence of foreigners, the relatively improved safety of the streets, changing tastes and fashions, the availability of time for leisure and the necessity of travel for business – all these contributed to the success of hotels, pubs and taverns (and, later, coffee houses. The first ordinance (1609) concerned Jews who visited taverns on Sabbath and holy days, not mentioning the consumption of food and drink in the city’s establishments on other days. Sometime before 1622 there was a six month ban on Jews frequenting these establishments at all. Had the cultural practice changed in two decades, or should we see here the strengthening of a ghetto government that first attempted only to address the violation of the Sabbath and a decade later attempted to enforce kashrut?

“That on the Sabbath and festival days, it shall not be permitted to anyone to go to drink and eat at hosterie or grecaiuoli of any type or stripe whatsoever, nor to have wine brought in from outside the ghetto on the day of the Sabbath, under penalty of 1 scudo per occasion [of the transgression], as above.”

That for six months from the above said date, it shall be unlawful and in fact prohibited to go to eat or drink at osterie, bettole, grecaioli, alberghi, camere alocante and other similar places, in Florence just as for a mile outside, and this prohibition is made for every Jew of our holy congregation, of whatever status, sex and condition, of every age. Excluding from this penalty an [individual] who should wish to go to drink a glass of ices, but this is only conceded for going alone, without any company, and the [governors] reserve the right — if they should learn that someone is abusing and maligning the concession — to prohibit [it] and condemn [it] the same as stated. Source Here.

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